Order of Business

The Order of Business is No. 17, motion No. 6 re sentencing of Pastor Jousef Nadarkhani by the Iranian authorities, to be taken without debate; No. 1, Nurses and Midwives Bill 2010 — Second Stage, to commence at the conclusion of No. 17, motionNo. 6; and conclude not later than 5.45 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed ten minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed eight minutes, and the Minister to be called on to reply not later than 5.40 p.m.; and No. 2, ministerial statement and questions and answers on the ECB interest rate reduction, to be taken at 6 p.m. and conclude not later than 7 p.m., with questions to the Minister to be taken in the same order as on the Order of Business, and Senators not to exceed one minute when asking questions.

I remind Senators that the time limits for contributions are three minutes for party and group leaders and two minutes for other Senators. It is unfair to other Members to eat into their time, particularly under the new system in place.

There is a glaring omission from the schedule of business for this week published by the Leader's office. A debate is not scheduled on the Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-16 plan published last week. Once again, it was published by way of a press conference outside the Houses of the Oireachtas and was not debated. Will the Leader allocate sufficient time next week to examine the vast number of projects throughout the country that have been axed by the Government and the implications that will have for employment here?

Next Thursday the Government will publish its comprehensive spending review and, like every other initiative introduced by the Government, it will do so outside the Houses of the Oireachtas by way of a press conference for the media. Will we be given ample time this week to discuss the comprehensive spending review? The Government must remember that it is answerable to the Houses of the Oireachtas, not the media. My advice to the Government is that it should respect the Houses and make such announcements in the Houses.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, to invite the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, who is responsible for public sector reform, to the House to explain to me and my colleagues why he, the Taoiseach and a number of other Ministers propose to continue with the dual abode allowance. Under this allowance, the Taoiseach will be able to claim 100% mortgage interest relief on his apartment down the road on Fenian Street, to the tune of €4,000, while the Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, has also indicated that he will claim this allowance. In addition, they will claim allowances for their utility bills. This is the Government that cut the allowances for utility bills for the elderly several months ago.

When I was a Member of the last Dáil I opposed the dual abode allowance and agreed with the then Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Enda Kenny, that it should be abolished. The Taoiseach said at the time, as he said about many other matters, that if he was in Government, he would get rid of this allowance. Now he will claim €4,000 in mortgage interest relief and will claim for his utility bills. That is in the context of the Keane report having been published almost nine weeks ago, with no action having been taken. The Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brian Hayes, came to the Seanad and told us he would publish an implementation strategy on mortgages well in advance of the budget. The Government also said it would implement an increase in mortgage interest relief to 30% for people who bought houses between 2004 and 2008, leading to an average saving of €166 for hard pressed mortgage holders.

Senator, do you have a question for the Leader?

I have proposed an amendment to the Order of Business. I am putting the question in context——

Those are points the Senator can make during the debate.

This is the Government that has reneged on its promise to give hard pressed mortgage holders an extra benefit of €166 net per month, based on a €300,000 mortgage, while its Taoiseach and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform — it would be funny if it was not so serious — will proceed with the dual abode allowance and claim for themselves. I move an amendment to the Order of Business, to call for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, to come to the House and answer questions as to why this Government will continue the dual abode allowance, which will cost taxpayers thousands of euro, while it is still not dealing with the mortgage crisis.

I will get an opportunity to discuss the fact that the Government has also reneged on the commitment to introduce legislation to ensure the banks pass on interest rate cuts by the ECB when the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, comes to the House later this afternoon. I will reserve my questions until then.

I welcome the Leader's announcement that a cross-party motion has been agreed on the sentencing to death of Pastor Nadarkhani in Iran, which is helpful. I remind leaders of the other groups that I have e-mailed an updated wording of a motion on Syria and would be grateful for cross-party support on that motion, particularly in light of recent reports of further abuses and killings by the Syrian Government and the suspension of Syria by the Arab League in a really dramatic move. This is a sign of how serious have become developments and how seriously repressive is the regime there. In this context, I would be grateful for an early response to the motion on the continued detention of the Syrian psychoanalyst, Dr. Rafah Nashed. The motion has been broadened to take account of other developments and of the repression and violence that has been used by the Syrian Government against peaceful protesters who have been protesting for democracy. I hope this motion also can be taken on an agreed basis.

I ask the Leader for a debate on prison policy in Ireland in light of the publication of the capital expenditure plan last week, which showed that further spending on Thornton Hall has been deferred. While many Members will be quite glad of that, they also need to ascertain what other resourcing can be done to ensure, for example, the phasing out of the brutal slopping-out practices in Mountjoy Prison. I acknowledge work is ongoing in Mountjoy as many members of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality will have seen in recent weeks. However, they need to know whether resources can be put in place to ensure that conditions in Mountjoy Prison will become better for inmates and staff alike, as well as to ascertain what plans are in place to move children out of St. Patrick's Institution. The commitment in the programme for Government is to end the practice of detention of children, that is, those under 18, in St. Patrick's Institution. However, those of us who visited recently saw that more than 30 children remain in detention there. In conclusion, I wish to inform colleagues that I will hold a seminar with Dr. Harry Kennedy and Ms Emily Logan, Ombudsman for Children, at 4.30 p.m. today in the AV room to discuss the conditions in St. Patrick's Institution.

The Senator should get her own party to do something about this.

Senator Bacik to continue, without interruption.

I would be grateful for the support of colleagues of all parties on this issue. Again, it is a matter on which there was cross-party support in the last Seanad from both Government and Opposition parties.

The Senator has a different attitude. She is rolling over constantly——

Senator White, please. I call Senator van Turnhout.

—— as leader of the Labour Party in the Seanad.

I also wish to address the infrastructure and capital investment plan, which I believe needs to be debated in this House. In line with the questions put forward by Senator Bacik, I also wish to raise the question of St. Patrick's Institution. As Senator Bacik has stated, the Government has committed in the programme for Government to end the practice of sending children to the aforementioned institution and has put forward the new national children's detention facility on the Oberstown campus in Lusk as a solution to the unacceptable and untenable position that obtains at present. For example, in 2010, 221 children aged between 16 and 17 were committed to adult prisons, of whom 219 were boys who were committed to St. Patrick's Institution. On average, that facility has 40 boys in detention.

In response to a Dáil question on 20 September last on the plans to proceed with the development of the first phase of the said project, the Minister of Justice and Equality stated the Office of Public Works was "in the process of preparing the required tender documentation for the project" and that the Government's decision on funding, approval for which is required before tendering for the construction phase, would be informed by the outcome of the Government's capital expenditure review. Unfortunately, when this review was published, it was silent on what would happen.

Therefore, given that development of the Oberstown project is now the responsibility of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, I ask that the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, come into the House to clarify the position, to outline her plans on how to proceed with the project as a matter of urgency, to confirm whether one can expect the project to be completed by mid-2013, as was the commitment given by the then Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in December 2009, and to address formally the concerns expressed by the Ombudsman for Children, Ms Emily Logan, in her press release this morning.

I ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, to come to the House to consider my proposal that he give consideration to the postponement of the review of county development plans on the basis of vast savings for councils at this difficult time. From my experience as an architect, very little development will take place over the next five years and any plan can be revised as a county council can put forward a material contravention. For example, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has estimated a cost of €2 million to carry out the review of the county development plans, Kerry County Council has an estimate of €200,000 for that review, Meath County Council has allocated €200,000, Cork County Council is working on the costings, Sligo County Council has allocated a massive amount for its review and Galway County Council has allocated in the region of €175,000. The list goes on and the figures vary a bit. Monaghan County Council has a figure of €265,000, Westmeath has allocated in the region of €40,000 to €50,000, Waterford County Council, the Leader's area, has included €50,000, which is very economical, and Mayo County Council, in the Cathaoirleach's area, had a sum of approximately €78,000 in 2009 and it put €150,000——-

These are points that can be made in the debate. Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I had a brief discussion with the Minister and he is very anxious to get the submission. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to the House. There is vast experience in the House on this issue. It is, I hope, a helpful suggestion to the Government which would save a considerable amount of money and, in the circumstances, I feel it is worthwhile. As part of a constructive and very helpful Opposition, it is appropriate that I would put forward the proposal. I would like the opposite side of the House to look at this situation. I will certainly put down a matter on the Adjournment if I cannot get results directly. I ask the Cathaoirleach to accede to that on Wednesday, if possible.

I second the amendment to the Order of Business proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Darragh O'Brien.

I propose to the Government and the relevant authorities that the iconic new bridge spanning the River Boyne be named the Mary McAleese bridge. She has served this country as President for 14 extraordinary years and there would be no more fitting monument to her great work.

That is a matter for the county council.

The bridge will stand as a constant reminder of her great work and it will show the constant need to keep alive links between the two parts of this island. I also draw to the attention of the House that it would be the first monumental civic structure to be named after a lady. It is more than time that this be done in this country. I ask the Leader to convey what I have said, and to consider this. I would be interested in the response. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his indulgence.

I congratulate President Michael D. Higgins on his inauguration. I had to pinch myself to know I was there at the inauguration. The last time I did that was when Haggardstown Geraldines won the senior championship.

How appropriate that Haggardstown should come into the situation.

I wish to raise two issues with the Leader. First, there is a need for a debate on accountability in Government and I ask that the Leader would provide space to have that discussion in the course of the coming weeks. People are rightly outraged at news of the outrageous pension payments which have been made to senior civil servants and politicians in recent years. This includes retired Ministers and all those who lost their seats, and not only politicians but also senior civil servants. A county manager in Waterford retired and received a lump sum payment of €200,000 tax free, and he got that on the basis of eight years of work which he did not do to bring him up to the 40 years of service. These kinds of payments are causing outrage——

We cannot raise personalities in this way. The person is not here to defend himself.

It is a matter of public record. There is nothing to defend. This is wrong, it is outrageous and it should not be happening.

The Senator should refrain from mentioning people's names in the Seanad.

I call for a debate on the general issue of those kinds of pensions being paid to senior civil servants and politicians, and also in regard to appointments to State boards and judicial positions because of political patronage. We were told this was something from the past but it most certainly is not.

They were only appointed because they were eminently qualified.

There is also need for a proper pre-budget debate in the House. We are all being lobbied by many organisations that are hosting pre-budget submissions, all of which are doing good work. Political parties will launch their pre-budget submissions; we launched ours earlier. I ask that a half day be set aside in the House for us to discuss the upcoming budget. There is no point in the Minister for Finance coming to the House after he proposes his budget. He should come to the House before he announces the budget to listen to alternative voices, opinions and proposals from parties and Independent groupings and to give us an opportunity to relay to him the lobbying we have received from groups ranging from the Carers Association and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to the trade union movement and others, which are putting forward realistic, genuine alternatives that should be considered. It would be important for the Leader to provide time in the coming weeks for a proper pre-budget debate and not to have the Minister come to the House after he has put the budget in place.

We have no difficulty with Senator Cullinane and his party giving us a detailed written submission on their proposals. I am sure the Minister for Finance will take on board all proposals furnished——

The Senator is missing the point. The Minister should debate them with us.

——but we will arrive at decisions which are in the best interests of the country.

I refer to the role of VHI in the private health care sector. The company has taken a decision not to cover patients who wish to avail of services at a brand new hospital in Cork. The hospital cost €75 million to build. It is fully equipped with MRI scanners, four new operating theatres and state-of-the-art facilities. The other two health insurers are prepared to provide cover but the VHI is not. I filed a complaint with the Competition Authority because this is anti-competitive. Will the Leader bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Health? It is important that there be a debate on the matter, given VHI is adopting a role it was not set up to perform, which is to decide who can and cannot provide health care. Patients who are prepared to use the Cork hospital or the Mater Private Hospital, which has an established record in Dublin, are being provided with cover for the Dublin facility but not for the Cork facility. It is a disgrace and this matter needs to be debated.

I support Senator D'Arcy's suggestion and compliment him on his generosity of intent in this regard. It is a great idea to thank a former President who has given such service to the State. She enjoys the affection and appreciation of all the people, irrespective of politics or religion, and she is a symbol of sincerity, courage and hope. Doing what the Senator suggests will remind us of what is expected of public figures in the future.

We had a debate not so long ago on the closure of several Army barracks. The Minister of State attended the House for the debate, which was not the most edifying debate, but those things happens. He indicated at the time that a decision had not been made. Since then all the towns that are likely to be affected have made their case. I accompanied a delegation from Clonmel to meet the Minister for Defence and, last week, the people of Clonmel delivered a petition of 8,000 signatures to him asking that he reconsider any negative decision that might be made. The main argument is that there is no saving involved in the closure of the barracks. It will cause considerable upheaval among the families involved. In the case of Clonmel, for instance, the husbands and fathers will have to travel to the barracks in Limerick. The cost of this is not being taken into account and, where there are young families, children will be unnecessarily denied the company and support of their fathers throughout the week. There will be further expenditure in Limerick. I am not too sure where the decision is coming from. It certainly does not result in savings and will have a considerable social impact on the towns involved. Clonmel will lose €10 million per year. The decision results in the opposite of savings in that there will be huge losses involved. I appeal to the Leader, at this late hour and irrespective of whether decisions are made, to revisit this issue because of the social and economic impact. We could never justify the closure and would regret such a negative decision.

I am concerned about the impact that certain elements of the capital expenditure review programme have had or will have, particularly in the area of juvenile detention. There is a clear commitment in the programme for Government that youths of 16 and 17 will no longer be detained in St. Patrick's Institution, which is part of the Mountjoy campus. Members of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, including me, visited the facility approximately two weeks ago. I would be far more comfortable if the proposed facility in Oberstown were developed properly. I call on the Leader to invite both the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to the House as soon as possible, particularly in light of the comments made today by the Ombudsman for Children, Ms Emily Logan. The latter has overall responsibility for ensuring the rights of children are protected. Her intervention today is very timely and worrying.

I welcome the fact that the country has, for the first time, a senior Minister with responsibility for children, but we need clarity urgently. In the absence of funding being made available to upgrade the facility in Oberstown, we need both Ministers to tell the House their plans to cease detaining children in St. Patrick's Institution, given that the incarceration of 16 and 17 year olds in a prison environment is completely inappropriate and goes against all forms of international human rights. I would like the debate to be held as a matter of urgency, with the Ministers in attendance.

I join Senator Ó Murchú in requesting the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, to the House today to obtain clarification on the strong rumours that have been circulating, not only today but also for the past three months, in regard to four barracks, three in particular. One is in Castlebar, which is basically a store. I assume it is being closed to make the Taoiseach look good in that he will appear to have sacrificed a barracks in his own county. The other three barracks are in Clonmel, Mullingar and Cavan town, my county town.

The decision to close the barracks involves 700 personnel, as the Army would refer to them. These are 700 human beings, men and women, who have served this country well both at home and abroad. The closures involve their families, wives, husbands, partners and children. The decisions involve the communities the barracks have served since the foundation of the State. They involve the economies of the towns in which the barracks are based and the surrounding areas. Senator Ó Murchú has alluded to this. If the barracks in Cavan is closed, it will cost the local economy €3 million annually. In respect of the other two towns involved, it will cost in the region of €15 million. It will cost more than €30 million to re-accommodate these people. This does not make economic sense nor does it make any sense from a security point of view. The barracks in Cavan is the first and only purpose-built barracks since the foundation of the State. It accommodates 140 personnel and 100 reservists. The only barracks between south-west Donegal and Dundalk is now on the cards for closure. I accepted the Minister's bona fides when he stated in response to an Adjournment matter I tabled several weeks ago that no decision had then been made. However, while he may not have brought a decision to the Cabinet, a decision has been made by the overpaid bureaucrats in the Army. One fewer bureaucrat would keep the Army barracks in Cavan open for one year. We have the most officer heavy Army in the world, with one officer per six soldiers. That is a fact.

The Senator can make these points in the debate.

These are points I made well but, unfortunately, they have fallen on deaf ears. I appeal to the Leader to invite the Minister, Deputy Shatter, to come into this House to clarify the position for the sake of the human beings involved. The UUP, the DUP and the SDLP are in favour of keeping the barracks open.

The Senator is out of time.

Perhaps they are more interested than the Government or the Minister in the security of this State.

I am sure Sinn Féin could pick a Minister from the Stormont Assembly to explain why the £400 million allocated by the British Government to the Northern Ireland Executive for the A5 motorway is being spent on other projects. This project was mentioned in last week's review of the programme on capital expenditure. Roads investment has been halted for a period of five years according to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, and a contribution from the Irish Government of €500 million for the A5 is being deferred. However, the Northern Ireland Minister for Finance and Personnel, Sammy Wilson, MLA, has stated that the £400 million allocated by the British Government for the A5 will be spent on other projects in Northern Ireland. I propose that the money be spent to commence the road between Aughnacloy and Derry because £400 million would build more than 50% of the route.

The Senator's Government pulled the funding.

Senator Harte to continue, without interruption. Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I ask that a Minister from the Stormont Assembly be invited to the House to explain why the £400 million——

The Senator is going to blame the Northern Executive for the fact that the Government pulled the funding.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I am trying to——

There is no need to take on the Opposition.

The sliding tackles should be for tonight's match, not today.

I think the Senator scored an own goal.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I ask the Sinn Féin Members, through the Leader, to arrange for one of their Ministers to explain why the £400 million allocated to the A5 will now be spent on projects which will benefit Sammy Wilson.

To answer that question, we ask that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport discuss the capital investment plan with the House. We could probably put Senator Harte's question to the Minister, Deputy Varadkar. Apparently, the matching funding that was supposed to be available from this side of the Border for the A5 was not available, so perhaps we should get that clarified by the Government parties. Ba mhaith liom, freisin, é seo a iarraidh ar an gCeannaire. The Sinn Féin delegation wrote to all Members of the Seanad about speaking time. We made some positive recommendations as regards allocating speaking time to Sinn Féin Members of the House. Has a decision has been reached on that? We have been told by numerous Members from across the House that they are in favour of the recommendations. We are anxious to know if any decision has been reached by the Leader or the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Will he clarify if that will appertain to today's debates? We hope it will.

I also welcome the inquiry into the Ballymurphy massacre of August 1971. The Attorney General for Northern Ireland, Mr. John Larkin, has announced there will be an inquiry into this atrocity, in which ten civilians were killed. They were shot dead by British troops. Cuirimid fáilte roimhe sin.

I called last week, and the Leader appeared to be amenable, go mbeadh díospóireacht againn maidir le cúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta. There is a timescale to this because a deadline of two months has been given for the review of the samhlú maoinithe, the new funding model that is being proposed through Forás na Gaeilge, to be negotiated and put in place. It is very important that we debate those before any decisions are made by the Minister about the Irish language groups. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbéadh deis againn é sin a phlé, chomh maith leis an straitéis 20 bliain agus na pleananna cur i bhfeidhm bliana agus trí bliana atá fógraithe ag an Aire agus go bpléadh muid cúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta agus comhthéacs Mheitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta agus céard atá chun tarlú leis na cláir a bhí i gceist ansin.

I support the suggestion made by my colleague, Senator Jim D'Arcy, on naming the new bridge over the River Boyne after our former President, Mary McAleese. I have a question for the Minister about the bridge. It was built during her magnificent presidency and it would be an everlasting symbol of the part Mary McAleese personally played in bringing peace to this island and her role in building bridges between all communities in Northern Ireland. The naming of this bridge after her would be a most deserved tribute to her memorable 14 years. All Members will be unanimous on the truly magnificent contribution she has made. Will the Leader bring this worthwhile suggestion to the attention of the Minister, Deputy Varadkar? I also call on Senator Jim D'Arcy to bring it to the attention of Meath County Council and Louth County Council, who would have a part to play. I congratulate my colleague on his wonderful idea.

I support the proposal made by Senator Jim D'Arcy. It would also solve a problem in GAA circles, where the emblem of the bridge has caused problems because nobody knows to what county it actually belongs.

On a more serious note, it is very important that the Leader schedule an urgent debate on the infrastructure and capital investment plan. This has resulted in a devastating blow for 9,000 jobs across the country and, for once, one cannot blame the IMF or Fianna Fáil.

Of course, one can.

No, one cannot.

The Senator does not know the facts.

The reason that this——

Senator Byrne to continue, without interruption.

This is a blow for 9,000 jobs because——

Senator Byrne is the root cause.

——Fine Gael and the Labour Party, according to theIrish Independent, decided——

They are worse than the EU and the IMF.

——to cut capital spending by €700 million per year over and above what Fianna Fáil had agreed with the EU and IMF, to avoid making more difficult political decisions. In County Meath, the Slane bypass has been cut, despite the Minister of State, Deputy Shane McEntee, telling us after the election that a secret deal had been done with the Labour Party to bring it back, in the same way as he said the Ward Union would also be brought back under a secret deal with the Labour Party. He also asserted that the Slane bypass was a top five priority project for the Government. Instead, it has been cut completely from the programme. Moreover, the Navan rail line has been cut completely from the programme. As for the proposed regional hospital for the north east, the four Fine Gael Deputies, as well as the Minister, Deputy Reilly, told theMeath Chronicle about a month before the election that not only were they going to promise to deliver it, but that they already had met investors who would fund the construction of that hospital. Were they telling lies to the people? That is a simple question. Were they messing? Did they think elections were a joke? Did they think people actually expect politicians to lie because that is the way it seems to me?

Yes, because Fianna Fáil did.

These are the most cynical politicians ever elected. Fianna Fáil made no promises in the last election——

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

There is not a word about the hospital.

Another letter from the Minister, Deputy Reilly.

The Senator has some neck.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

There is not a word about the regional hospital for the north east in that document. This is despite the claims of Fine Gael to have met investors before the election, and not merely to have promised it without finding out where the the money was, in another letter and claim from the Minister, Deputy Reilly. A debate on this matter is needed urgently. It is necessary to note that Fine Gael and the Labour Party have slashed 9,000 jobs. People are now getting their redundancy notices because metro north is not going ahead.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

Fianna Fáil smashed the country in two.

People are getting redundancy notices because that project is not going ahead——

The Senator has some neck.

—— because the Government is afraid to take the tough decisions. Moreover, as the Minister of State, Deputy Penrose, should be aware, plenty more of them will arise.

I wish to support my two colleagues from County Louth on the naming of the bridge and to pay tribute to Mary McAleese on the wonderful job she did in the past 14 years. It would be a fitting testament to her work. As I did not do so last week, I join in the congratulations extended to our new President, Michael D. Higgins, to wish him well in the Áras and to compliment everyone who was involved in the highly impressive inauguration ceremony last Friday of which the country can be duly proud.

I ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to come into the House to discuss the behaviour of energy suppliers. I refer in particular to Airtricity, as I have reason to believe its treatment of some customers leaves much to be desired. A case recently was brought to my attention concerning a couple who had made an arrangement with the company to pay a certain amount per week but who were cut off without notice.

These are issues that can be tabled for the Adjournment debate.

It is important to raise such an issue in this House. Even when the arrears were cleared for the aforementioned struggling young couple by family members, it took five days before their supply was reinstated. This is not acceptable in this day andage and the Minister should discuss the behaviour of energy suppliers with Members in this Chamber.

I ask that the Leader might arrange for the Minister for Justice and Equality to provide an update to Members on the progress being made on the drafting of the proposed landlord and tenant business leases review Bill, which is due to be introduced to the House fairly shortly. There is concern among the business community that this may not be making the progress that was expected. Many jobs are at stake and all Members have been contacted recently by several businesses with grave concerns regarding any potential delay in the introduction of this badly-needed legislation.

I welcome the all-party motion on the Order of Business today with regard to Pastor Jousef Nadarkhani. That issue was taken up by the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and me with the Iranian ambassador only two weeks ago. He undertook to revert to us with a comprehensive reply to our queries. In this context, I also welcome the letter I received from the Tánaiste which expressed his concerns on this and other human rights issues in Iran. Therefore, I was greatly surprised to learn, on the day I received this letter, that he had decided to close the Irish Embassy in Iran, as well as two other embassies. Iran is a country with which Ireland had €86 million of trade last year, €82 million of which was in exports. Ireland has embassies in many countries with which we do not have anything like the level of trade we enjoy with Iran. The reasons advanced do not hold water when one examines the position with regard to other embassies. Like many people, I was appalled to see the closure of the embassy to the Holy See. That embassy was opened in 1929 at a time when we only had three other embassies or delegations, one in Washington in the US, one in London and the other to the League of Nations, so there is a long history of association with the Vatican. Given the fact 90% of our population is Catholic, I thought it was an amazing decision to take.

I do not want to accuse the Minister of having more to do with ideology than anything else, but it is certainly short-sighted. I ask that the Tánaiste come to the House to address this issue — to the best of my knowledge, he has not been in the House at all since the election. I was not surprised that it came from a member of the Labour Party, given it would represent and accord with the views of people in the Labour Party, but I was very surprised with the suppliant attitude of Fine Gael in that regard. I thought it would have been a much more majorissue within that party. I am glad the Fianna Fáil party spokesman in the Dáil has put it on the record that, should Fianna Fáil be returned to office in the future, it intends to reopen that embassy.

The Senator might regret saying that. I will remind her of it in a few years.

I feel compelled to say how unhappy I am with the lead story inThe Irish Times that the Minister, Deputy Joan Burton, plans to make employers fund sick pay for employees for the first four weeks of illness.

Trouble in paradise.

We need to be reasonable. While this may just be a story, I appeal to the Minister, Deputy Burton, who will be in the House on Thursday, to quickly reconsider this. It is an anti-jobs move and is biting off the hand that feeds us. Employers are multipliers. They need to be encouraged, not discouraged. We know that SMEs are the lifeblood of this country.

This morning, I received three calls from employers, and I am sure others in the House received similar calls. One was from the operator of an SME employing seven people who said that the staff would have to be called in this morning and told they would be without jobs if this went ahead, and that the business would downsize to being a sole trader. Two other employers in Galway city told me they would offer their employees the opportunity to be subcontractors. What is the outcome? It is less revenue for the Government.

Let us be reasonable and get a message straight through to the Minister, Deputy Burton, that this must be changed. It is a bad move for jobs and the mantra of the Government is about jobs and getting people back to work.

They might have to change that mantra.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I ask the Leader to convey my concerns immediately to the Minister, Deputy Joan Burton, and, as I understand that proposals can be modified, to ask her to have a reasonable proposal on this issue by Thursday, when she will be in the House. We need to be very careful. This is about society. We are trying to instil hope and this is a "no hope" measure.

I was happy to hear what Senator Walsh had to say about the Government's attitude to closing embassies. I remind my friend and colleague, Senator Noone, that it is not at all inconceivable that Fianna Fáil will return to Government, either at the next election or the one after. I say that as a neutral.

We will have to agree to disagree, as usual.

I will tell the Senator one thing. Right now, there are people who will give their vote to Fianna Fáil rather than Fine Gael——

It is early days.

——because there are people in this country who were hurt by the closing of the embassy, that entirely unnecessary gesture by the Government, and there are people for whom it is a voting issue.

We will reopen it.

Fine Gael people, many of whom feel this was a wrong-headed move, know what they have to do on this issue. I do not believe it will go away because it was unnecessarily hurtful. Not only was it a hurtful gesture, it is quite interesting to note that many eminent, neutral commentators in the media, including people like Mr. Stephen Collins, Mr. Deaglán de Bréadún and Mr. Eamon Delaney, a writer and former employee of the Department of Foreign Affairs, also think it is a wrong-headed move. It is not just a particular sector of society that is concerned about this.

There have been many calls for debates on political reform.The Irish Times and its journalist Mr. Paul Cullen have done us a service by pointing to the failure of the current Government to end the culture of cronyism when it comes to making political appointments. I do not like having to say this but many people welcomed what the Taoiseach had to say when he was running for office about the new approach that would be taken and they will be disappointed to see that he is back to old, bad practices. I spend a great deal of time showing school and college groups and others around Leinster House and I talk to them very often about the separation of powers and how important it is that the Executive is separate from the Legislature and from the Judiciary and so on.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

It does not help the perception around our separation of powers when there is such an obvious link between political participation and appointment to the Judiciary, in particular. We need to debate that and other appointments to State agencies. The people are looking and they want to see whether Ireland is turning a corner in terms of new, better and more ethical practices. We should have a debate at an early stage about the way in which appointments are made and the Government needs to show it is getting away from the bad old culture of appointing friends. There should only be one criterion when it comes to making appointments of this kind and that is merit.

Appoint and disappoint.

I compliment my colleague from Haggardstown on his proposal, which was so ably supported by his county man, Senator Brennan. It is a worthy and meritorious proposal and I hope the powers that be will take it on board.

With regard to the Vatican embassy, this issue has been misunderstood. I was concerned about what I will not call a closure——

The embassy is closed.

No, the Italians have gone in there.

On a point of order, they have not. The Senator is wrong and he has to be accurate.

Mr. David Cooney, the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been appointed as our ambassador to the Vatican and one could not have a more able diplomatic representative.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

He will be there once a month and he will be prepared to spend weekends there.

He is not a resident ambassador.

Senator Coghlan to continue, without interruption.

We could have a non-resident ambassador there quickly and allow Mr. Cooney to work his superb diplomatic skills because when he meets the Secretary of State to the Vatican, I am sure the Vatican will agree to allow the person we appoint as a non-resident ambassador to occupy the same space in the Villa Spada as our ambassador to Italy.

He should resign from the Knights of Columbanus.

Senator Coghlan to continue, without interruption.

How often will he be there? The Senator is pathetic.

A great deal of misinformation is being peddled by the Opposition on this subject.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I compliment AIB on introducing the interest rate cut recommended by the Government.

Is the bank giving the Senator good rates?

The taxpayer owns 99% of the bank.

The Senator is out of time.

Where is the legislation from the regulator?

I appeal to Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank to follow the lead of the ECB. It should be automatic for banks to follow the lead of the ECB.

The Government should bring forward legislation and do what it said it would.

The nuances involved are not understood.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

AIB is a State-owned bank and it is charging the lowest rate and following the lead of the ECB. The others have higher rates.

We understand that. What about Bank of Ireland and ICS?

Senator Coghlan can make this point in the debate.

I will have to because, unfortunately, there are different points of view across the board.

The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade said they would bring in legislation to address this issue. Where is it? This is like the legislation for home owners. Where is that?

Will the Leader arrange a debate on this matter soon?

Every day my colleagues from County Louth, Senators Jim D'Arcy and Brennan, cross a beautiful bridge, which is an architectural pleasure and a delight to observe, particularly in the evening.

Provided by Fianna Fáil.

By the taxpayer, actually.

It is my pleasure to support Senator D'Arcy's proposal to call the bridge after the former President, Ms Mary McAleese. She had the courage to reach out across the political divide when it was unpopular to talk to the UDA and the UVF. I met Mr. Gerry Adams at a dinner in Áras an Uachtaráin during her Presidency. She had the courage to be sociable and entertain Gerry Adams in the Áras.

Something radical is happening. The unnatural coalition between an extreme right-wing group and a group that is trying to be left wing——

Is the Senator asking for a debate?

Deputy Naughten——

Is the Senator looking for a debate on this issue?

I have a much more serious point to make. I believe Deputy Willie Penrose has resigned the Fine Gael whip.


He has resigned the Labour Party whip.

What does that have to do with today's Order of Business? Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

I have a serious problem with the leader of the Labour Party in the Seanad. When she was in opposition she was militant but now she is rolling over.

Senator White is not for turning.

I am calling for a debate on why Ireland has 14.4% unemployment while the rate in Germany is 6.5%.

Fourteen years of Fianna Fáil. It will not be a long debate.

Why does the Minister for Social Protection want to transfer social welfare payments from the Department to employers when an employee is out of work for a month?

On Friday night, I attended the Irish exporters awards and the Irish Export Association is the body that nominated me to the Seanad. The Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, in an eloquent speech, said that Irish people by their very nature are entrepreneurial and creative; the evidence is that 1,000 Irish people per month are setting up businesses but they must go through the valley of death to survive. He said that with feeling for business and Joan Burton——

The Senator must address Ministers by their title.

This is a serious point. I disagree with Senator Healy Eames. It is not unilaterally a bad thing but the companies——

Other Senators wish to speak. Does Senator White have a question for the Leader?

Senator White is making a good point.

This is a serious issue for small companies in the domestic economy, not for those exporting or for bigger companies. If someone is out sick from a company that employs two or three people, the employer must pay for that. It is not thought out and the cracks in the unnatural coalition between Fine Gael and the Labour Party are apparent.

Senator Byrne disguises his outrage for the good people of County Meath in the rhetoric of concern but he is more interested in scoring political points in his constituency.

On a point of information, 22 people have died and the people of Slane have cried out with one voice for a new bridge and it was cancelled by the Government after we granted planning permission for it.

The Senator should resume his seat. There is no such thing as a point of information.

The Senator seems to be scoring points against his constituency colleagues. I would welcome a full discussion on the capital programme. Perhaps Senator Byrne would not welcome such a discussion because it might at last become obvious to him that the reason for the cuts and reductions in the first place is the decisions made by the Government of which he was part.

I gave the facts when I spoke; the Government cut it unilaterally.

Senator Byrne supported that Government and voted unfailingly for its policies, which led us to the sorry pass we are now in. Perhaps while explaining to the good people of Slane and Navan, he could remind them of his voting record in the other House.

Does the Senator have a question?

Yes, I am calling for a debate and supporting Senator Byrne's recommendation that we have a full debate on the capital programme. I congratulate the Government on making such a large investment given the circumstances. It is a good thing that we should have this debate and we should be honest about it.

The decision on withdrawing a vitally important wing of State in the Holy See is downright disgraceful and I am calling for an emergency debate on the issue. An ambassador is merely a figurehead. If that figurehead is to be located in the capital city of Ireland — Dublin — rather than the Vatican, what sort of reflection will this cast on the State and its people?

Has the Senator ever heard of conference calls?

Senator Ó Domhnaill to continue, without interruption.

I could name a number of embassies throughout the world which are of lesser importance than our embassy in the Vatican and which could be closed.

To which embassies is the Senator referring?

The decision taken in this regard does not relate to saving money. It is, rather, a pathetic attempt to try to cultivate support.

Senator Ó Domhnaill should indulge us by naming the embassies in question.

Senator Ó Domhnaill to continue, without interruption.

The Government's decision has backfired.

We appointed our most senior man.

Does Senator Ó Domhnaill have a question for the Leader?

If Fianna Fáil returns to government, it will ensure that the Irish Embassy in the Vatican will be reinstated.

That will be done long before the Senator's party is ever returned to government.

A Senator

Faith of our fathers.

I seek a debate on the capital spending review announced last week. What has been proposed in this regard represents a retrograde step. A number of extremely important projects have been dropped, including the Slane bypass which, as previous speakers stated, could save lives, and the upgrading of the A5 road into the North. The previous Government committed to spend €480 million on the A5 project. What the Government is doing is not only an attack on funding that was previously allocated, it is also an attack on what has been achieved on the island of Ireland in the context of bringing about peace. This project is a fundamental aspect of the St. Andrew's Agreement and it was signed up to by the previous Government and the Administration in the North.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

No, this is a very important matter.

A number of Senators are still offering and I want to be fair to everyone because these proceedings are being televised.

Some people might try to forget about Donegal. However, I am of the view that Donegal is part of this State. Why should the sovereign Government on this part of the island reduce the allocation in respect of the project to €50 million?

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

No, this is a very important point.

The Senator's time is exhausted. Does he have a question for the Leader?

The Taoiseach made an announcement to the effect that €50 million would be provided. However, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, stated on radio the previous evening that this would not represent the way forward.

The Senator can make those points during the debate. Does he have a question for the Leader?

I am calling for the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform, Finance and Transport, Tourism and Sport to come before the House to explain why various capital expenditure projects are being cut and why 9,000 people will not have jobs next year.

Fianna Fáil has the answer to that question.

Will the Leader clarify——

The Senator is way over time.

——the position on the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Penrose? Is the Deputy still a Minister of State?

That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

Media speculation regarding this matter is rife——

I call Senator Sheahan.

——and that is destabilising the Government.

Down with the Government.

I will do my best to keep to the point.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

A Senator

I am not sure televising these proceedings is a great idea.

I wish to raise two issues. First, will the Leader ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, to come before the House for a debate on the review by the Valuation Office of rateable valuations nationally? The process in this regard began in 2005. In 2008, it was estimated that the process would not be concluded until 2018. However, I spoke to the Commissioner of Valuation recently and he informed me that it will not be possible to conclude it until at least 2020.

Three local authorities in Dublin have reduced the rates relating to certain sectors — the hospitality sector is most notable among these — by 30%. There is a need to expedite matters in respect of the review of rateable valuations nationally. If he is available, the Minister, Deputy Howlin, should be brought before the House in order that we might engage in a discussion on this matter. Rate reductions will not be much good to people if they are only introduced in 2020 because many individuals will have gone out of business by then.

The second issue to which I wish to refer is quite alarming and perhaps other Senators might indicate whether it affects their areas. I refer to the fact that companies are making small numbers of people redundant every week. There is a company which operates in my locality which has let 25 people go on each of the past two Fridays. The individuals to whom I refer had been employed on temporary contracts. Some of them worked for the company for a year and others had done so for two years.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?

Absolutely. I would ask the Leader to invite the Minister, Deputy Bruton, into the House to discuss this. If there were 50 lay-offs anywhere in the country today there would be uproar, but it is the way it is being done. I wonder if it is legal.

Senator Sheahan is out of time.

The worry is that there is no product development or research and development here. I ask that the Minister would get the agencies to make contact with this company and try to stop the loss of jobs.

I echo the comments of other Senators, especially Senator Wilson, on the Army barracks closures. The Minister of State, Deputy Penrose, has resigned on the basis that the decision to close the Army barracks was not backed up by facts and figures. Like other Senators, I call for the Minister for Defence, Deputy Shatter, to come into this House and show us his part of the comprehensive spending review, the cost benefit analysis and the impact assessment being made because this decision makes no economic sense. If a Cabinet Minister resigns because he has no faith in a decision and the reason for it, then we cannot have faith. The Minister of State needs to come here to clarify the issue. We can look at the decision only when we see the figures.

The memorandum of understanding with the EU-IMF includes a commitment that by the end of the third quarter of 2011 the Government must establish an independent regulator to implement the outstanding recommendations of the Competition Authority aimed at reducing legal costs. I note that the Legal Services Regulation Bill was published in October. I ask that the Minister come to the House to provide an update on the implementation of the Competition authority's recommendation and if the Leader can indicate when that legislation is expected to come before this House. Of late, and especially in terms of the economic circumstances, I have heard stories from many people about cowboy solicitors and barristers exploiting people who have little or no redress from the Bar Council and the Law Society. When can we expect that legislation to come before this House?

I reiterate the point my fellow Louth Senators raised about renaming the Boyne cable bridge in Drogheda after Mary McAleese. It is a fantastic idea. Like the peace bridge in Drogheda, it would go further to highlight how far we have come in the past few years.

On a separate issue, I congratulate the Irish football team on their wonderful success against Estonia last week.

It is not over yet.

It must be the Estonia team.

By the sound of it, some Senators are warming up for the match tonight. I wish the team good luck tonight and compliment its fans on how proudly they behave at all the matches. I wish them every success tonight and in the European Championship finals, the first ones we will have reached in ten years.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for letting me in to defend myself. I am disappointed with my friend. It is a wonder that we can be friends because we disagree so regularly. If there is any room on Senator Mullen's moral high ground, I would like to get up there for a second if he does not mind.

There is plenty of room up here. The air is purer.

With regard to the referenda, Senator Mullen ran down the political classes by looking for a "No" vote in the referendum. We are capable of doing that kind of work.

Does Senator Noone have a question for the Leader on the Order of Business?

I am disappointed in my friend.

Does the Senator have a question for the Leader on the Order of Business?

My question for the Leader relates to the point made by my colleague, Senator Paul Coghlan, on the banks. Who exactly do Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank think they are? The Taoiseach asked them, because he wanted to avoid us investing time in having to bring legislation into both Houses.

We will have a Bill next week. Senator Noone need not worry about it.

What did Senator O'Brien say?

We will have a Bill in the House.

Through the Chair, I cannot speak when I am interrupted.

We will have a Bill in the House.

The point I want to make is that the Taoiseach asked the banks to bring in this reduction and they should do that. I would call on them to do it.

Otherwise there will have to be legislation. We will have to force them. That is the reality. Why should we have to do so?

Who is running the country?

The Taoiseach has asked them.

Does Senator Noone have a question for the Leader?

My question for the Leader is——

Who is running the country?

——whether he could get the Minister for Finance to attend the House for a debate on this issue.

I was in breach of Standing Orders by allowing the debate to go on so late but seeing as today was the first day of a new beginning, I broke Standing Orders. I call the Leader of the House.

The Cathaoirleach could be a Minister of State; the Taoiseach should send for him.

He could be by the end of the day.

The Constitution of 1937 allows two Senators to be appointed Ministers.

Senator Darragh O'Brien and others raised the issue of the capital programme. Its focus is on jobs, education and health care and it is certainly arealistic plan, bearing out the reality of the economic situation in which we find ourselves. The reality is that the country simply cannot afford to do everything the Government wants todo.

The Government cut it by €700 million more than we would have done.

The plan is based on what we can afford to do. I am awaiting confirmation from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, that he can come to the House on Tuesday. He has promised that he will do so to speak on the matter and it is just a question of finding out what time he will be here. I assure the House on this, as I did last week with regard to requests to bring the Minister of State, Deputy Hayes, to the House to discuss the rate cut as he will do today. The Minister, Deputy Howlin, will come to the House, I hope next week, to discuss the capital plan.

Senator O'Brien also raised the question of the second home tax relief for Ministers. Cutting costs at the top has been ongoing since the Government came to office. Previously, it announced a reduction in the pay of the Taoiseach and Ministers, changes to ministerial transport arrangements and the top level appointments commission terms that apply to Secretaries General on retirement.

That is costing the Government more and the Leader knows it.

Jobs for the boys.

In addition, new pay ceilings have been introduced for the CEOs of semi-State bodies and senior public service posts. There are now fewer Oireachtas committees and reductions have been applied to the costs of special advisers and Ministers.

While Oireachtas Members can claim expenses and allowances for residential arrangements in Dublin——

No, the Cabinet and the Taoiseach.

——this is not available to Ministers. The dual abode allowance can be claimed by a Minister or Minister of State who is obliged to maintain a second residence in addition to his or her main residence in the performance of his or her duties as an officeholder.

It also applies to renting apartments.

The dual abode allowance cannot be claimed in respect of a main residence.

The Taoiseach stated he would abolish it.

I do not propose to accept the amendment proposed by Senator O'Brien and if he keeps interrupting me I will continue to speak.

Senators Bacik, van Turnhout and Conway raised the matter of the Thornton Hall project being deferred and the situation in St. Patrick's Institution and the need to address the concerns of all in this regard. I will certainly ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and perhaps the Minister for Justice and Equality to come to the House to address the matter.

Senator Leyden raised the matter of deferring county development plans. The Minister will come to the House tomorrow and perhaps the Senator can raise it then.

I thank the Leader.

Senators Jim D'Arcy, Ó Murchú, Brennan, Byrne, Paul Coghlan, White and Moran raised the issue of the Boyne bridge and its possible renaming to the Mary McAleese bridge. I apologise if I missed out on other Senators who also raised this matter. Senator D'Arcy should be complimented on his excellent suggestion. As has been stated, the former President built many bridges between communities in Northern Ireland in her term of office. The matter may have to be addressed by local authorities and the NRA but I assure the Senator I will discuss it with the Minister and the Taoiseach, if necessary, to see whether we can progress this excellent suggestion.

Senator Cullinane raised the matter of pension payments. The Government has taken action on this matter. The Senator also raised the question of political patronage. The Government has vowed to do things differently concerning State boards. For the first time ever, people are being given the opportunity to apply for positions.

Not true. It was introduced by the last Government.

This process has increased the pool of talent significantly and allows for properly skilled people to fill vacancies. The Government has also decided that chairpersons of boards will make themselves available to the appropriate Oireachtas committee where they can be questioned on their potential contribution to the board. More importantly, appointments are no longer tied up with secret deals with Independents to secure support for a Government.

No, they are contributors to Fine Gael, relations, friends and party members.

Senator Burke referred to the position on VHI and the new hospital in Cork. As it is a matter that needs to be addressed, I will take it up with the Minister for Health.

Senators Ó Murchú, Wilson and Reilly mentioned army barracks closures, which certainly will have a major impact on the communities in question, in the same way they had an impact on the communities where 11 barracks were closed under the Fianna Fáil regime in the past ten years.

There was a surplus of barracks.

We will all pay the price.

Senator Cummins to continue, without interruption, please.

Those closures created major upheaval for families in those communities. We all realise that it will create problems for all the families concerned, but we must look at expenditure. We also have to examine the various commissions' reports and studies going back to the 1990s that have identified barracks closures as a fundamental requirement in improving military effectiveness and efficiency. The Minister of State, Deputy Penrose, is a man of principle. I understand, as the Taoiseach has announced in the other House, that the Minister of State has decided to resign as a result of proposed barracks closures.

He did not resign over household benefits.

That is regrettable for an excellent Minister of State whom we had hoped to have here tomorrow to address the housing question.

Senator Harte referred to the capital programme. I hope we will have the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in the House next week to deal with that issue.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh mentioned speaking time for Sinn Féin. I will discuss that issue with the party's three Senators after the Order of Business.

Do they have a leader?

I will certainly seek a debate on the question of the Irish language and the funding model. I am glad the Senator has said that a timescale is involved in this, but I am sure the Minister will attend the House to address those problems.

Senator Byrne is seeking a debate on the capital programme. The Government is not afraid to take tough decisions. We were elected by the people to sort out the mess, which is what we will do.

Senator Mullins mentioned problems with energy suppliers and sought clarity on theLandlord and Tenants Review Bill. I will find out for the Senator when that matter will be addressed.

Senator Walsh and other Members referred to the closure of embassies. We discussed this matter at length last week on the Order of Business. I will endeavour to have the Tánaiste attend the House shortly to address the many foreign affairs items that the House needs to discuss.

Senator Healy Eames raised problems which were a news item today inThe Irish Times. I do not think we should believe everything we read in the newspaper. The Minister will be in the Chamber on Thursday and that matter can be addressed.

I have addressed the issue of appointments to State bodies raised by Senator Mullen. The criteria for appointment are ability and merit.

Senator Coghlan raised the question of interest rates and was hoping that Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank would follow the lead of AIB. We all agree with him. We will have a discussion on the matter this evening.

We can debate the matter raised by Senator White on Thursday. Senator Ó Domhnaill raised the closure of embassies. I would be pleased if he could provide a list of embassies that we could close. I am sure the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade would welcome a copy of the list, if he has another list of embassies that could be closed.

I do not have the information but I am sure the Tánaiste is well aware of them but I can provide a list.

Senator Sheahan raised the important review of valuations by the Valuation Office and the resultant reduction in rates in many local authority areas. There is a need to speed up the process and I hope the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, will come to the House next week. In respect of the temporary workers on contract who are being let go, perhaps the Senator will raise the issue on the Adjournment when he will get a more detailed reply.

Senator Reilly has asked when the legal services Bill will be brought to the House. I will revert to the Senator on the matter.

To conclude on a very positive note, we all join Senator Moran in wishing the Irish soccer team every success not alone tonight but in the European Championships.

Senator Darragh O'Brien has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate on the reason for the continuance of the dual abode allowance be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 15; Níl, 28.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.


  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Thomas Byrne and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Ivana Bacik and Paul Coghlan.
Amendment declared lost.
Question put: "That the Order of Business be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 30; Níl, 13.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.


  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ivana Bacik and Paul Coghlan; Níl, Senators Thomas Byrne and Diarmuid Wilson.
Question declared carried.